Thursday, October 19, 2017
Sunday, October 15, 2017
This morning, D.V., I will be preaching at Hope Reformed Church in Clifton, NJ., and Pastor Eric Farrar will be preaching here. Join us as two church in the Northeast have sermons preached where the Word of God is read, exegeted, and applied -- a rare thing in this area of the country. May God be glorified.
Friday, October 13, 2017
40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline by Jeremy M. Kimble is the third volume I have read in this series. I appreciate the format of the series. Each volume has forty questions on a topic. In forty short chapters, the author attempts to give biblical answers to the question. Each question/chapter ends with a succinct summary and questions for reflection. A well-formatted series for personal or group investigation.
The author begins with the question of whether church membership and discipline are important – to which he answers in the affirmation. Membership is important because Christian is a community religion, membership makes the “invisible church visible,” the Church is its believing membership, and, discipline is prescribed in the Scripture, discipline shows the love of God, and it fleshes out the idea of perseverance (17-18).
As he goes forward, he stumbles, as I read him:
He explains that church membership in the old covenant was by family, whereas there has now been a change such that only believers can become members (42-43). When? Where?
By the time, the reader arrives at page 64, the author explains:
In order to become a church member, one must be able to profess faith.
In order to become a church member, one must be baptized.
Since infants – and probably children until the age of ??? – cannot make a profession of faith they cannot be baptized, and cannot become members of the church.
At this point, if the reader did not know it yet, one will say to oneself, “Oh, this book was written by a Baptist!”
These “arguments” that the reception to the covenant have been changed and argument that since infants can’t make a profession of faith, they can’t be baptized and can’t be received into membership, seem rather far-fetched to me. But, I understand – to a point – where the author is coming from. These arguments may be accepted in the Baptist Church, but making them so foundational in the book make it less useful for a wide audience.
Beginning on page 141, the author addresses church discipline – based largely on Matthew 18. He well argues that one ought to confront an individual one on one, then with two or three, then before the congregation – and the point of discipline if reconciliation – the reception back of the person who was persisting in unrepentant sin.
I was confused by question 29 in which the author asks about what out to be done for a leader caught in unrepentant sin. After noting the seriousness of such sin, he says to go through the Matthew 18 process, and, if he confesses before the congregation and repents, he should be forgiven “and, most likely, be removed from office” (196).
So, there cannot be full forgiveness and restoration of the church leader? What about Peter and Paul and their conflict? Paul called out Peter, he repented, and he continued in his leadership position?
For the good of this volume, it is equally off-balanced by the assumption of Baptist theology and some questionable conclusions. There is good, and I recommend that. For the rest, I hope there is a second edition that is more universal in its use for the church – with some clarity given on issues noted as well.
[This review appears on my blog and on Amazon.com. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.]
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Sunday, October 08, 2017
October 8, 2017, Second Reformed Church
We continue our look at five main themes of the Reformation as we remember the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the Church at Wittenberg. We are looking at the biblical teachings of Scripture alone, Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone, and to the glory of God alone.
This morning we turn to the theme of Christ alone. That is, the work of Jesus’ perfect life under the Law of God credited to us, and Jesus’ taking on all of our sins and the Wrath of God for them – His crediting us with His righteousness and taking our sin upon Himself – that is all we need for salvation. We do not have to do other works to be saved. We do not need other people or creatures to increase our merit before God that we would be received into His Kingdom. No, what works do we need to be saved? The works of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior. Nothing more and nothing less. Our salvation is completely secure in and by Jesus’ work. Period.
(And, yes, we are to do good works. But they do not add to our salvation. Our good works bear witness to the fact that we have been saved by Jesus – they do not give us merit or credit or position before God concerning our salvation.)
Martin Luther and others wanted to discuss their concerns about the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church – they did not want to divide the Church – which is what ended up happening. Luther looked at the Scriptures and discovered that salvation in completely merited and secured by Jesus with no additions from anyone. That is not what the Roman Catholic Church taught and still teaches:
We read in the Council of Trent: “there is a purgatory, and that the souls there detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful and chiefly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar,” (http://catholicsaints.info/council-of-trent-decree-concerning-purgatory/).
The Roman Catholic Church rightly teaches that all humans are sinners and cannot merit salvation – and so, they invented the doctrine of Purgatory – and imaginary place where one supposedly suffers and receives merit until one is worthy to enter the Kingdom. Here we see the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching that Christ’s work is not enough to save anyone. No, we also need to suffer in Purgatory, receive the merit of living people who suffer, and the merit generated through to so-call “re-sacrificing” of Jesus in the mass.
Again, we find this in the Council of Trent: “they above all instruct the faithful diligently in matters relating to intercession and invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics, and the legitimate use of images, teaching them that the saints who reign together with Christ offer up their prayers to God for men, that it is good and beneficial suppliantly to invoke them and to have recourse to their prayers, assistance and support in order to obtain favors from God through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (http://catholicsaints.info/council-of-trent-on-the-invocation-veneration-and-relics-of-saints-and-on-sacred-images/).
The Roman Catholic Church is wrong on this issue: Jesus Christ secures our salvation for us through His work with no help from us or anyone or anything else. So, let us turn to our text.
The first thing we see is that our salvation is in Christ alone.
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Paul writes to the Christians – the Church – located in Colossae to encourage them in their faith and to repeat what they knew and believed to strengthen and equip them. Paul makes it clear that salvation – our redemption – our being made right with God – is in Christ alone through His works.
Paul tells the Colossians that God the Father Sovereignly delivers all those who will believe out of the kingdom of darkness – out of slavery to sin – and transfers us into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son.
How does this transaction occur?
We have redemption – salvation – the forgiveness of sins – in Christ alone. Since Christ earned righteousness and credited us with it, and He took on all of our sin and paid the debt due to God by enduring the fullness of His Wrath on the cross – we are seen and received as righteous and sinless – in Christ alone through His works.
What do we contribute to our salvation? Surely God must require something of us.
If Paul isn’t clear, hear what Paul writes:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-7, ESV).
We are born spiritually dead. How much can a dead person contribute to his health?
What can we contribute to our salvation?
Nothing. It is in and by and through Christ alone.
God the Father loved us when we were dead and chose to save us through Jesus’ work despite our being children of wrath – who hated God and wanted nothing to do with Him. This is God’s Amazing Grace – He chose to send His Son to save us all by Himself and to His Glory.
“But, don’t I have to choose Jesus? Don’t I have to accept Jesus first, before His salvation is given to me?”
“We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19, ESV).
Brothers and sisters, if you believe savingly in Jesus Christ, it is because God the Father chose you and loved you and ordained that you would be His before we had any desire to have anything to do with Him or His salvation.
God acts and we react. God chooses us, and Christ merits our salvation, and the Father and Son sends God the Holy Spirit to indwell us, and then we respond in thanksgiving and faith and obedience.
If we say, with the Roman Catholic Church, that the work Jesus did is not enough to save us, then Jesus is less than God, He is less than our Savior, and we become saviors with Jesus – we become co-saviors, co-redeemers with Jesus – if we add anything to our salvation.
No, the glory and the wonder is that God chose us and saves us through Christ alone. Our salvation is secure because it is the work of God and God indwells us forever.
Next, Paul tells us, Christ in preeminent in Creation.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Paul enlarges on Who Christ is by explaining three things about Christ’s preeminence in Creation:
Frist, Jesus Christ is God.
Paul tells us that Christ is the Image of God. We know that when God created humans, He created us in His Image, but Christ is the Image Himself! Christ is the God in Whose Image we are created. And in His Incarnation, Jesus is both the Image of God and the bearer of the Image of God, so He is the firstborn of Creation – that is, He is the preeminent Being – there is no one greater than God our Savior.
Second, Jesus Christ is the Governor of Creation.
Paul tells us that Christ – God, created everything that exists, in Heaven and on earth, the visible and invisible – everything that is exists because Christ created them when nothing but the Triune God existed. And now, He governs everything that is, because they were created through Him and for Him. Everything that exists is for the glory of God, and God superintends over everything so everything is under His Sovereign control.
Third, Jesus Christ is the Sustainer of Creator.
Again, Christ, our God, Who is pre-existent to everything that is sustains everything. If it were not for the dominion of Christ over the Creation, it would fly into chaos. God created everything and governs it and sustains it. Nothing goes one way or another or comes into existence or goes out of existence except by the Will of God.
Remember what Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31, ESV).
The God Who is the Sovereign Lord over all of Creation loves you and values you and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to accomplish salvation for all of His people – alone – all by Himself. What love is this that this God would love us and save us, knowing that we can give nothing, and still accomplishes salvation in Christ alone?
Finally, Christ is preeminent in redemption.
“And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
Here Paul explains three things about Christ’s preeminence in redemption:
First, Jesus Christ is the Foundation of the Church.
Jesus is the Head of the body – the Church. The Church exists by and for Jesus. We are His people that He has saved for Himself. The Church only functions as Jesus leads and directs – just as the head of the human body leads and directs the rest of the human body and its functions. Jesus is the ruling authority and is not dependent on anything or anyone.
Jesus is the beginning. The Church begins with Jesus. He is the One Who calls us out of our deadness in sin and brings us together as His Church. Our purpose and life is by Jesus and in Jesus.
Jesus is the first-born from the dead. Not that He is the first person resurrected from the dead, but He is the first one to be physically resurrected and glorified in His human body.
And just as He is first and most glorious in these things, so we will be kept in Him and physically raised and glorified on the last day by and in Christ alone.
Second, in Jesus Christ dwells the fullness of God. Jesus Christ is both at the same time in the same person, a real, complete human being, and the One Almighty God. That is how He lives a perfect life under the Law of God, and He receives the fullness of God’s Wrath for our sin.
We who believe are gifted the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, but Jesus received the indwelling of God. We cannot be called God, even thought He lives in us, but Jesus Christ is God and at the same time in the same person a real, complete, full human being. This had to be for Him to save us, and it could only be Him that can save us, because no one else is wholly God and wholly human.
Third, through the blood of the cross, Jesus Christ is reconciling all of Creation to Himself.
Through the salvation that Jesus Christ alone accomplishes, all we who believe are eternally saved – reconciled with God – confirmed to be received into the fullness of the Kingdom of God.
Thought we are the special object of God’s love and redemption through Christ alone, we will remember that the whole Creation was cursed due to our first parent’s sin, and all of the Creation will be reconciled to God – it will be restored and uncorrupted on the last day.
As Paul explains:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:19-25, ESV).
We wait in hope for the return of Christ and the indwelling of the fullness of the Kingdom when He alone physically raises our bodies and glorifies us, and we will be made eternally like Him. Likewise, the Creation waits in hope for the resurrection of our bodies, because it will then be freed from its bondage to corruption and will be set free in the very glory that we will receive.
Jesus Christ is preeminent in redemption. Christ alone is the Head of the Church. Christ alone is God Himself, our Savior, in a real human person. Christ alone will reconcile all things to Himself – casting away sin and death and evil and all its effects.
Our Heidelberg Catechism says:
Q & A 29
Q. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,”
A. Because he saves us from our sins,1
and because salvation should not be sought
and cannot be found in anyone else.2
1 Matt. 1:21; Heb. 7:25
2 Isa. 43:11; John 15:5; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 2:5
Q & A 30
Q. Do those who look for
their salvation in saints,
in themselves, or elsewhere
really believe in the only savior Jesus?
Although they boast of being his,
by their actions they deny
the only savior, Jesus.1
Either Jesus is not a perfect savior,
or those who in true faith accept this savior
have in him all they need for their salvation.2
1 1 Cor. 1:12-13; Gal. 5:4
2 Col. 1:19-20; 2:10; 1 John 1:7
“Either Jesus is not a perfect savior, or those who in true faith accept this savior have in him all they need for their salvation.”
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ Alone is our Savior. He Alone is the Creator and the One Who redeems of all Creation when He comes in glory. If you have believed the Gospel, you are saved, He has done the work, there is nothing for you to do and you cannot add anything to your salvation.
Rest in Him. Hope in the promises of what will come. And now, to those Whom Christ alone has saved – in thanks and in joy – let us obey our God and Savior.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for sending Your Son to save us. We thank You that He did all the work to save us and that He reigns Sovereign and preeminent over all things including the Creation and our redemption. Send the Holy Spirit to give us Your peace that we would trust in the work Jesus did and rest in Him, as the Holy Spirit leads us and gives us the power to do all that You have commanded. And may Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, for it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.